Five mistakes every new manager can make and how to avoid them
“The manager treats ends as given, as outside his scope; his concern is with technique, with effectiveness in transforming raw materials into final products, unskilled labour into skilled labour, investment into profits.” Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue
To assume a managerial role is to assume a position that is assumed to confer a degree of power over a group of people, and a responsibility to some end – the well-being of the business, essentially. The ends are always assumed to be fixed, and effectiveness is the quality which you, as a manager, must promote, above all others.
In order to achieve that which your role demands of you, you must deploy a variety of means to get those who fall within your purview to do as you expect. You must use your power both coercively and non-coercively, in order that you can fulfil the mandate demanded by your managerial role.
Managing people is not, despite the claims of some, a science. There are no general laws that, if followed, will result in guaranteed success. Instead, you must rely on your capacity for understanding, and your ability to act according to the unique demands of every situation. To help you navigate these uncertain waters, here are six fundamental mistakes, and how to avoid them:
1. Not taking responsibility for errors
Those in positions of power cannot be precious about assuming the burden of blame if things go wrong. If a mistake was your own, own it. If it was another’s, correct it and show them where they went wrong.
2. Letting bias sway your decisions
It is expected of a manager that they position themselves in a morally neutral manner – they are arbiters between those under their watch. But humans cannot avoid attachment, nor the pull towards favoured others. When making a choice, say between two paths offered by two employees, draw yourself away from your personal feeling, and towards whatever is the most effective choice.
3. Not respecting the individual’s work
Battered by pressures from above, and frustrated by a slow, or error prone worker, you may be compelled to stand over their shoulder and take charge. Micro-managing, however, is an ineffective use of your time, and being overbearing may cause the effected worker’s problems to compound. Ensuring that they know what to do is one thing – watching every time they do it is quite another.
4. Not talking often enough
In seeking to maintain the emotional distance required by the managerial role, you can easily mistake professionalism for coldness. It is important to know whether there are any issues impacting or distracting employees in the office, and it is important to have clear and open lines of communication.
5. Not controlling the atmosphere
It is easy to mistake being liked for being respected, and it is also easy to over-emphasise a convivial environment for one that allows people to get stuck into their work and produce as best they can. The art of management is in balancing good feeling in the office with a serious commitment to working.